Two days after squeaking by the worst team in the League in a shootout, the Caps face the NHL's best team. Is doom impending? Not necessarily. Over their last 40 games, the Caps have pretty much played to the level of their opponents, with only 11 games being decided by more than two goals and only six games being decided by more than three goals (and they've been on the winning side of half of those games). In fact, in the 17 games since December 14, the Caps have gained half of the available points in the standings, going 7-7-3 (I am hesitant to call a seven-win, ten-loss record ".500," though some have no problem doing so. See, for example, the WaPo, which notes that "[w]ith the win [over St. Louis], [the Caps] finished 5-4-1 and above .500 against the Western Conference for the first time since 1997-98." Despite the fact that the Caps had more wins than regulation losses, the team won five of ten games and thus had a .500 winning percentage in those games. They did not finish above .500 against the Western Conference. Sorry for the digression.) The point is the Caps will play Carolina tough, just like they play most teams tough. Or they'll get blown out. We'll see.
Elsewhere in Capland, the praise for what's-his-name keeps coming in with each game that passes. After being beaten by him twice (once in regulation and then again in the shootout) on Thursday night, Curtis Sanford thinks Alex Ovechkin is "the best player in the league." Granted, Sanford has only played in 27 NHL games, but the man clearly knows talent when he sees it. And if you haven't seen it enough (or if you just really dig P.O.D.'s "Boom"), here are a couple of great compilations of AO's work so far, the first hosted over at rh71's AO Video Site, the second hosted by Google Video (more up to date, but with Google, connection can be hit-or-miss - if it doesn't work, try again later).
And to add to the organization-wide good news, the bottom-line is improving. Only to someone like Ted Leonsis can losing only $5 million be "great news." By contrast, if I lose five bucks it ruins my week.
In other news from the hockey world and perhaps slightly beyond:
- Bad teams play bad hockey. In last night's Blues/Jackets game, the teams showed why they're at the bottom of the Western Conference by combining to go 1-for-11 on the power-play while yielding three shorthanded goals between them. Maybe they should start thinking about declining penalties in the future.
- The Coyotes and Flyers have swung a deal with Phoenix sending Petr Nedved east in return for defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Philly will be the seventh NHL team for Nedved, a high-ranker on The Rink's yet-to-be-released Most Hated list, thanks to this game. For analysis of the trade, go here.
- The 'Canes and 'Hawks swapped defensive prospects with Anton Babchuk heading to Carolina and Danny Richmond blowing into the Windy City. Analysis here.
- It appears the NHL is more popular than the NBA. Or at least it is the favorite sport of more adults who follow more than one sport and were forced to select which one was their favorite (savvy?). Hey, we'll take it. Also notable in the polling results if for nothing more than its blinding obviousness, "Auto racing (which includes NASCAR) is most popular among those with a high school education or less..., while it fares worst among those with a post graduate degree... ." Here's photographic evidence to corroborate that last claim.
- Has anyone noticed (of course you have) that on just about any page at the NHL.com site, there's an ad for "Chicks Who Dig Hockey"? Besides the blatant sexism and insensitivity to the fairer sex (irony alert) and their dating needs, doesn't everyone know that when they click on the link thinking they're getting this, they're really going to end up with this?
- On this day in 1919, the Ottawa Senators signed future Hall of Famer Harry "Punch" Broadbent. Where, oh where, have all the great hockey nicknames gone? From now on, tough guys get tough nicknames at The Rink, starting with the League's leader in major penalties, Knuckles McGrattan.
- Also on this day, way back in 1887, Georges Vezina was born. He passed away in 1926, but rolled over in his grave seventy years later when the trophy that bears his name was awarded to Jim Carey.
- Finally, you think scoring's up this year? Well, on this day (yes, I know I'm going to this well a bit much) in 1989, Bernie Nicholls picked up their 100th points of the season for the Kings in a 5-4 loss at Hartford (you're only 30 points back, Jaromir!). Nicholls would finish the season with 70 goals and 80 assists.
- Hart: Ryan Craig (G, 2A, +2)
- Ross: Ryan Craig (G, 2A)
- Norris: Darryl Sydor (G, A, +2)
- Vezina: Manny Fernandez (W, 31 saves on 32 shots against)
- Richard: 20 players tied with one
- Calder: Ryan Craig (G, 2A, +1)
- Aiken, Pt. I: Marty Turco (L, 4 goals against on 8 shots in just 12:35 before getting the hook)
- Aiken, Pt. II: Bryan "'Roids" Berard (-3 in 4-3 win)